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Home Decorating Tips

Organizing a Decorating Project

This meticulous living room is well decorated and well organized -- everything has its place.

Decorators know design is never-ending. You no sooner resolve one room than another challenge arises. As families grow and lifestyles change, rooms evolve. When organizing a decorating project, begin a folder or file containing information pertinent to each room you're currently working on. Store everything from paint chips to fabric samples in your folder.

A whopping portion of every project's success is due to careful consideration of all the elements. Include a rough floor plan (with points of access and traffic routes noted), and write down the room's measurements and architectural details.


Designate one section for resources like telephone numbers, fax numbers, and Web sites. Set aside a "budget page" so you can tally the money -- who's been paid, who hasn't -- as the project moves along.

Some decorators prefer a standard accordion file with pockets since it allows a pocket for each room; others tout the benefits of a loose-leaf notebook equipped with a durable cover that zips.

Keep in mind that pictures, paint chips, and receipts will have to be stapled to the pages of a notebook. However, notebooks are often a bit more advantageous than accordion files, especially when the notebooks have separate pockets to hold scissors and tape measures.

Take inventory of the room's existing furnishings including cabinets, appliances, and accessories. Then, divide that list into three categories: keeps, maybes, and discards. Include dimensions of each piece (height, depth, and width); this will help when you're shopping for a new item or trying to find a home for a discard in another room of your house.

Tip: Think about moving questionable furnishings to another part of your home. For example, just because the dresser no longer works in your daughter's room doesn't mean it wouldn't be an appealing addition to the bath. Put the dollars you save by not building a storage cabinet for towels toward a stunning rug for the new space!

The second list you make is your wish list. Include everything you'd like to see in your new room. Try to think of the small activities that take place every day. Would a built-in niche for car keys help keep the room more orderly?

How about a special spot for the pet's bed? For now, forget costs. If you've always coveted a decoratively painted ceiling swirling with clouds, make a note. Maybe the budget won't stretch to allow for an artist, but hiring a student from a local art school is a possibility. Confronted with a written list, it's easier to determine what you can and can't live without and to find creative solutions.

The more information you assemble, the easier it will be to make known your intentions to a contractor or designer. A picture, it's true, is worth a thousand words. Keep all those magazine photographs handy, and stay organized.

When the need arises, you'll be able to open your folder and whip out a picture that illustrates exactly what it is that you want, a measurement, or a carpet sample. It's less stressful on you and the people assisting you if you have samples and swatches to reference, too.

Tote your file along when you go shopping or antiquing. When you come across a new light fixture or a lovely old iron bed, you'll be better able to judge whether the find will work or not.

Sometimes doing it yourself instead of hiring a professional can save you time and money. And it might even be enjoyable! On the next page, learn more about which design projects probably require a professional and which ones you could handle yourself.

To learn more about interior design and get tips and information on decorating your home, visit:

  • Interior Decorating: Get tips on how to decorate your home and read about organizing a project and selecting an interior design that fits your lifestyle.
  • Decorating a Room: Find out how to decorate a room from floor-to-ceiling.
  • Decorating Styles: Are you traditional or eclectic? Learn about decorating styles for your home.
  • How to Design a Kitchen: Create a kitchen that works for you and get tips on how to choose and place appliances and create a decorating scheme.
  • Kids Rooms: Get tips on decorating your child's room, with information on colors, smart strategies, and money-saving tips.